Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Live Free Or Dye

I spotted the first silver strands on my dark head when I was about 28. When I gave birth to my second child, at the age of 30, the strands were becoming more prominent. I didn't mind it until about two years later when the strands really began taking over. I was only 32 and I felt old. So...I colored...and colored...for years. I always maintained that I would stop when I was 45 and, alas, I did. Three years later my hair is, I'm guessing, about 75% gray.

I like the color: a shiny silver that looks bright white on top in sunlight (as in the photo). I get a lot of compliments on it, albeit sometimes backhanded. Other women sometimes say things like: oh, aren't you brave! Or, it must of been hell to grow out (which it was). Interestingly enough, men are the most complimentary and supportive. But to my other silver-haired female counterparts, I'm just another comrade.

In Anne Kreamer's book Going Gray she discusses a test of her sexual appeal to men. She set up two accounts on Match.com. In one she displays a photo of herself with colored hair; in the other a photo with gray hair. She noted with surprise that the gray-haired photo received twice as many responses from men as the colored hair pic. Anne Kreamer, like I, speculates about why this may be. I think it's because middle-aged men are not the shallow dudes they were in their youth. I see this in my male friends, my ex-husband and my current partner. They value honesty and colored hair is anything but honest. Besides, most artificial color is too harsh and hardly looks natural at all; especially when brunettes try to find a version of their natural hair color, as I did. I doubt I fooled anyone.

Everywhere I go I look for women (and men sometimes) who, like me, wear their hair the way nature intended: gray, silver, platinum or salt-and-pepper. Of course, in my neck of the woods there is a disporportionate number of women who don't color. The hilltowns of Franklin County, further down the road into Greenfield and further still to what we fondly call The Happy Valley, aka The Five College Area (Mount Holyoke, Smith, Amherst and Hampshire colleges and the University of Massachusett), there are many proud silver heads to be found. So many, in fact, that I hardly stand out.

Not so in other places I've travelled: San Francisco, Zurich, London, Lisbon and Montreal, among them. Gray hair on a woman under 65 seemed a rarity to me. In these places, I did stand out. In my home country of Portugal, my well-intentioned middle-aged cousins haven't passed up opportunities to encourage me to resume coloring my hair. In that country, it seems as if there is a hair salon on every street corner, (right next to a bakery). It is their husbands who tell me flat out in front of their wives, not to color my hair; that it looks fine the way it is.

So, does it matter to me what the women think of my hair? Sure. Will it change my resolve to keep my hair natural? Nope. I'll just hold my head a little highter and let my freak flag fly, as David Crosby once sang in Almost Cut My Hair.

P.S.

12 comments:

  1. Hehehe, I almost sent you a link to this blog - I thought you'd love it!

    Beautiful job, Gurrrl!

    I didn't know e.e. painted!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey thanks, You!

    I just discovered that ee painted. Some of his stuff is for sale online, if you have a few grand to spare. I found it interesting that that they aren't worth more just because of the name; even if they're not that great. Still, I admire the multi-talented.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I found you throuh Bobbie at Almost There. Like you, I colored my hair for years, but about 2 years ago, I said enough is enough and now I am proudly silvery gray!

    EE is my favorite poet and I didn't know he painted either!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I must be strange. I never colored my hair and couldn't wait to go gray - or white. I love white hair. And it does have its advantages, you know. People hold doors for you.

    I'll have to investigate ee's paintings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love gray hair. Mine has been turning gray for several years but still hasn't made the total transition. I can hardly wait!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow! It's so great to hear from other women (and CR but he's an honorary feminist) on this issue.

    bobbie: you're a wise woman. I wished many times that I had never started coloring my hair. Good for you!
    P.S.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think even natural looking hair coloring (as far as the hair itself is concerned) can backfire. If the hair doesn't match the rest of the person, I think it confuses people on a sub-conscious level. I think that kind of confusion can interfere with sexual attraction for men.

    I think you have made the smart choice.

    You are very good at writing about feelings, something many people have trouble with. In comments on my blog, you said you weren't sure what to write about in regards to the March 19 blogswarm. One thing that would be different and interesting is for someone to write about how it feels to live in our country during this war, especially since our media often acts like it isn't even happening.

    I'm sure you could come up with plenty of other ideas too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. libhom: I was so pleased to discover your comment. I am a very deep feeling person. Writing about feelings comes naturally for me. I like this idea and will persue it further. I was also thinking about perhaps interviewing regular people about how the war affects them emotionally. I think this is a good start.

    Thanks again for your efforts and for a really good blog.

    P.S.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think you hair looks beautiful. I let my gray grow in over the last few months and I love it. The texture, the silvery strands, the shine.

    I'm like you. I look for it now on everybody.

    ReplyDelete
  10. TCR lured me here. I must agree about the gray hair. So beautiful. I see you read David Byrne's journal, too. He's been one of my biggest influences since I was a kid; it was great to find him holding forth on all kinds of fascinating topics.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Beat! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I like David Byrne a lot. What's different about his website is that he maintains it himself. A lot of major recording artists don't do that.

    I went to your blog and I think it's great that you care about what your kids eat. I did too when mine were young. I'm a teacher so I see daily the garbage they feed those children. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete

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